The 23rd annual World Snowmobile Expo kicks off today in West Yellowstone. The Expo attracts thousands people to town each March to check out new snowmobiles hot off the assembly line, aftermarket parts and accessories and to simply have a good time watching and racing.
“We hope to see at least 3,500 people, which is close to what we had last year,” said Marge Wanner, of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce Snowmobile Events Committee. “It’s a great time. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed and hope the weather is on our side.”
This year’s lineup includes a number of new events being added to what is referred to as “the largest snowmobile event in the West.” Free M120 Arctic Cat snowmobile rides will be offered to kids at the SnoCross track area along Iris Street starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Kids will need to be accompanied by an adult.
Riders will take to the racetrack for more Snowbike PRO races throughout the weekend. Demo rides are also being offered on a first come, first served basis to try out the Timbersled Mountain Horse snow bike starting at 11 a.m. each day of the Expo.
New on Sunday is Mike’s 4X4 Big Trucks Competition. The on-snow competition starts at 1:30 p.m. at the SnoCross track.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Western States Vintage Snowmobile Association West Yellowstone Round-up. The Round-up features a parade and a vintage show and display located next to the SnoCross race track. Vintage snowmobiles are also set to race on an oval track for the first time in 35 years in West Yellowstone.
“The exciting thing for me too is the vintage snowmobiles. This would have been the 35th anniversary of the last oval race in West Yellowstone. They used to race on an oval track on the South Plateau,” Wanner said.
The races are limited to snowmobile models from 1980 and older and will take place at 11 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
“Entries are up close to 40 people already,” she said. “The event will use a portion of the oval track at the race track in front of the bleachers.”
Memorabilia from the World Series of oval racing will be on display at the Exhibition Hall, which is located at the Holiday Inn on Yellowstone Avenue.
“At that time (during the World Series of oval racing), there were numerous manufacturers of snowmobiles, where now you have four,” Wanner said.
The races give Expo-goers the chance to see many different types of sleds from the past that aren’t made today. The four present-day snowmobile manufacturers include Arctic Cat, Skidoo, Polaris and Yamaha.
This year’s Expo will also focus on getting the entire family involved in the sport.
“We will be raffling off some 120s and we’re only selling a thousand tickets. The Expo committee is trying to promote snowmobiling as a family,” Jan Stoddard, the accommodations marketing director with the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, said.
The entire family can check out the famous snow bleachers at the SnoCross track too.
“Wear warm, waterproof footwear, bring a chair or a blanket and take a seat on the snow bleachers,” Stoddard said. “We work with many groups each year to get the track and snow bleachers built.”
The schedule of events also includes traditional Expo favorites that participants look forward to each year like Casino Night, SnoCross races and the Radar Run and snow drag races, which are sanctioned by the Washington State Snowmobile Racing Association and Mountain West Racing each year. Casino Night kicks off tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn. People can play casino games with fun money and the night includes raffles and prizes. This year’s theme is “superheroes.”
Swoop Productions returns to West Yellowstone on Saturday afternoon for the Street Bike Freestyle. The event will start at 4:30 p.m. at the intersection of Canyon Street and Madison Avenue following the annual Swap Meet on Madison Avenue.
Swoop Productions is based out of Boulder, Mont., and hosts the show with riders performing tricks like handstands while up on one wheel of their bike, wheelies, tire burnouts and more. The Freestyle Competition is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. at the track along Iris Street later that evening.
“Expo is kind of like a family reunion, people bring their friends, look at new stuff and come to have a good time,” Wanner said.
Expo admission tickets can be purchased at the Exhibition Hall or at the entrance to the SnoCross Track. Visit www.snowmobileexpo.com for a complete schedule of events.